Sometimes a game just has a premise that seems like pure gold. After all, would you be able to say no to a game in which you have to fend off nearly-endless horde of rampaging, 150-foot tall ogre like creatures by zipping around them at ludicrous speeds while chipping away at their armor before you deliver a killing blow by lopping off their heads? You would not, and Modus Games and developers Iron Galaxy know this, hence why they have delivered Extinction, a new third-person action game based around the ideas previously mentioned. A good premise can only get you so far, though, and while the final product doesn’t botch the execution, it sadly misses more than a few swings in the process.
Extinction sees you playing as Avil, the last of the Sentinels. Once an order devoted to defending the land from the monstrous Ravenii, now only the stuff of legends and fairy tales. When the massive threat of the Ravenii returns, however, Avil and his female sidekick leap into action and attempt to come up with a way to save as many people from the enormous threats as they can, harnessing mysterious technologies and magics that allow them to communicate and teleport people away to safety. And throughout all of this, they have to deal with the king clashing with them and their ideas, in the types of arguments you have likely seen several times before, admittedly.
The story isn’t bad by any means, mind you, just a bit standard. What brings it down a bit is the presentation. Extinction does have some particularly well-done animated cuteness that play in between chapters that detail the backstory of Avil and his friend, but the narrative in the present is only told through voiceover at the start of each mission with character portraits of our two leads and the king (who also seemingly end up as the only three characters with anything to do). And these portraits don’t even take up the full screen — just the lower-left corner — leaving players to awkwardly stare at Avil’s back, frozen in place before the current discussion ends and you can begin playing.
But odds are that you aren’t playing Extinction for the deep story, you’re playing it for the opportunity to take down massive forty-foot monsters. The game has you covered in that area, as the Ravenii put up quite a fight. There’s a decent-sized variety of them to deal with, each with their own kinds of armor that you have to dismantle in different ways with precise strikes. Sometimes you may have to take out multiple locks, sometimes you have to goad them into making a move that extinguishes a magical skull, sometimes you have to bypass indestructible armor altogether using your trusty grappling hook to climb on to them. Whatever the case, there’s a lot to work with that provides a good amount of strategy. Comparisons to Shadow of the Colossus are inevitable and while Extinction’s behemoths don’t require the same level of complexity, there is a genuine thrill in taking each one down. Unfortunately, as Extinction can’t have these battles for the entire content (sure, SotC could, but its bosses had more variety), it needs to generate thrills in other areas as well and that’s where it falters.
In order to actually generate enough Rune Energy for the killing blow, you have to either save citizens by teleporting them out of the city via the use of various crystals or defeat the smaller human-sized Ravenii known as Jackals, which tend to try and kill the aforementioned citizens. And sadly, most combat tends to consist of either A. Mashing the X button over and over, or B. Just using Rune Strikes, as they defeat most regular enemies in one to three hits, and go in slow motion so that you can highlight foes. It’s not necessarily bad combat, just a bit shallow, sadly.
Of course, considering that rescuing citizens provides much more Rune Energy and that you can still pull of a successful teleportation as long as you aren’t damaged and interrupted, I felt that as long as I was able to knock an enemy or two out of the way, they could wail on defenseless citizens all they wanted. After all, as long as I completed the teleport in time, it still counted. Rescuing townspeople isn’t there just for the Rune Energy alone, though. Each area has a percentage that goes down when the Ravenii either kill people or wreck buildings. If it drops to zero, you lose and have to restart the mission.
The challenge is meant to be in having to balance killing the Ravenii swiftly before too much is lost and rescuing citizens before ground forces destroy them, but the difficulty swings wildly. Some times you’ll have no issue in taking down a giant beast while keeping the city intact, but then other times half the town is wrecked somehow just as a second mammoth monster is summoned and you still have two more after it to defeat as your goal. It might be because certain stages do randomize the layout, types of Ravenii and bonus objectives to complete, and like with any game featuring random elements, sometimes fate just isn’t in your favor.
The aforementioned bonus objectives are a way to earn more points that can be spent in between levels towards upgrades. It’s your standard set of skills to improve – more health, speedier teleportation of citizens, certain moves such as being able to recover from hits mid-air – and it’s simple yet effective. You also have the ability to earn more points in Extinction Mode, a more arcade-style experience where you have to hold off an endless amount of Ravenii for as much as you can. The only issue with it is that it utilizes every Ravenii possible, high and low, so you’ll have to have completed at least four chapters before to can be prepared for everything in it.
To try and make an already-long story shorter, Extinction has the right premise and ingredients for a stellar action game, but everything just feels slightly off in some way or another. The fast-paced movement, wall-climbing, hovering and general parkour all control nicely and are fun to execute, but some bits involving platforming over insta-death areas are trickier when you don’t have wide open spaces like usual. The graphics are nice and bright and the music is epic, but some of the buildings and designs look a tad vanilla. Smashing off locks and armor on Ravenii is always fun, but sometimes Rune Strikes demand too much precision and the camera being a tad wonky (especially when it suddenly requires you to swing around to face a target) doesn’t help either. It’s like for every bit of awesomeness, there’s a notable fault waiting in the wings.
While there’s joy to be found in decapitating a seemingly-endless army of building-sized beasts that put up an immense fight, Extinction sadly never delivers a true killing blow in any one area, just a bunch of solid strikes with some notable misses. Quick combat, challenging battles, and an opportunity for strategic gameplay are all sadly bogged down by monotonous missions, generic ground troops and a few cheap shots. While the game is still decent overall and possibly worth taking a peek at, here’s hoping such a killer concept can be executed more expertly down the road.